The Yule Log as we know it today is a delicious holiday dessert, but its symbolism and origins go way back.
Like most Christmas traditions, the Yule Log had its origins in pagan ritual. In ancient times, peasants would burn a large log on the longest night of the year – the Winter Solstice (December 21st) – to ward off evil spirits that lurked in the darkness and to welcome the return of the sun and prosperity.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the Yule Log ceremony was adopted as part of Christmas celebrations. A group of men would gather the log on their own or a neighbour’s property and bring it back home to burn in a large, open hearth for 12 hours. The Yule Log was lit with a remnant from the previous year’s log, which was kept as protection against evil all year long. After the fire was quenched, its cinders were scattered over fields to bring fertility or cast into wells to purify and sweeten the water.
The Yule Log tradition died out in some countries as the large, old-fashioned open hearths disappeared. However, a French dessert was created in the late 18th Century to symbolize the Yule Log. The cake was rolled up into a cylinder to represent the log, with one end lopped off and perched on top or on the side to indicate the rings of the log. The modern-day Bûche de Noël or Yule Log was born.
Our version of the Yule Log is simply delicious, and is not difficult to make. Kids can help out with some of the steps and have fun icing and decorating the cake. If you haven’t made a Yule Log before, this is the version to try. It’s made with a chocolate sponge cake, mocha whipped cream filling and chocolate cream cheese icing. When it’s done, you can sit back and bask in the oohs, aahs, and compliments!
Click here for Festive Yule Log recipe.